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Statistics and outlook for acute myeloid leukaemia

Men and women discussing acute myeloid leukaemia

This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with acute myeloid leukaemia. You can find the following information


A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for acute myeloid leukaemia

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Doctors call this your prognosis. The likely outcome with AML depends on several things, including how advanced the leukaemia is when you are diagnosed, the type of AML you have, and how well it responds to chemotherapy.

Further down this page we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome for AML. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. They are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you need to speak to your own specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information. If you think you would like to have this information, you can read further down the page. 

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your leukaemia is unique. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.


CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating AML section.



About the information on this page

This page contains quite detailed information about the survival rates for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

Please note that there are no national statistics available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. We give statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.


Cancer statistics in general

The cancer statistics section has information about the different types of cancer statistics. You may find it helpful to read this before you read the information below, unless you are very familiar with medical statistics.

Remember that statistics are averages based on large numbers of people. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two people are exactly alike. How well treatment works will vary from one person to another.

You should feel free to ask about your outlook, but even your doctor cannot tell you exactly what will happen. You may hear your doctor use the terms 5 year survival or 10 year survival. This doesn't mean that you will only live 5 or 10 years. It relates to the number of people in research who are still alive 5 or 10 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for this long in leukaemia research studies. Then they can compare the results of different kinds of treatment.


Acute leukaemia statistics in general

The outcome of treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia depends on several different factors. You will need to talk this through with your own specialist. The factors include

  • Your type of leukaemia
  • How advanced it is when you are diagnosed
  • How well it responds to chemotherapy treatment

The outcome also depends on whether you had leukaemia that changed (transformed) from a chronic form into an acute form. It can be more difficult to treat leukaemia that has transformed.

It may also be harder to treat a leukaemia that has developed after treatment for another cancer. This is called a secondary leukaemia. It means that you developed leukaemia after earlier chemotherapy damaged your bone marrow cells. This is rare, but it can happen. Secondary leukaemia usually develops within 10 years of treatment for the first cancer.

Your doctors may be able to get your leukaemia into remission for a few years, even if they can’t cure it completely. Remission is when the leukaemia is not active and the doctors cannot detect it with scans or blood samples. If AML comes back after initial treatment it is called relapsed leukaemia. With relapsed AML, it is sometimes possible to get rid of all signs of the leukaemia again (a second remission) with more chemotherapy.


Outlook for AML

This section deals with adult acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). There is a separate section for statistics about acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Your age when you were diagnosed plays a big part in your likely outcome. Generally, the younger you are, the more likely your treatment is to work well. This is partly because leukaemia behaves in different ways in different people. And partly because younger people are better able to cope physically with the very intensive treatments that are more likely to cure leukaemia. But specialists and researchers are working on ways of adapting the very intensive treatments so they are also suitable for older people.

Of all adults diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, on average around a quarter (25%) will live for at least 5 years. Younger adults tend to do much better than older people. For example, more than half (50%) of the people under 45 diagnosed with AML will live for at least 5 years. Some of these people will be cured. But in others the AML will come back. Unfortunately, we can’t tell in advance who has been cured and who will relapse. 

In people over 65 years of age the outlook tends not to be so good and around 12 out of 100 people (12%) are alive for more than 5 years.

These figures are from the USA and are relative survival figures. This means that they don't include people with AML who have died from other causes. Cancer statistics are often worked out this way because it gives a more accurate picture of the survival rate of the cancer. Many people with cancer are older and may not die from their cancer, but from other illnesses, such as heart disease.


Factors that affect outcome

We know that some things can affect the outcome of disease and they are called prognostic factors. There are some prognostic factors for AML and we know that it is harder to treat if

  • You are older (over 60)
  • Your white blood cell count is very high when you are diagnosed
  • Your AML developed from a condition called myelodysplasia or because you had treatment for another cancer
  • You have particular genetic changes (mutations) in the leukaemia cells
  • It takes more than 2 cycles of chemotherapy to get your leukaemia under control

Outlook for childhood AML

The younger you are when diagnosed with leukaemia, the better you are likely to do. Children with leukaemia tend to do much better than adults. The cure rate for children has improved dramatically over the past few decades. In the 1960s very few children with AML lived for more than 5 years. Now, in children under 15 years of age diagnosed with AML, between 6 and 7 (60% to 70%) live for at least 5 years.


How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. For example, the same type of leukaemia can grow at different rates in different people.

Statistics are not detailed enough to tell us about the different treatments people may have had. They also don't tells us how that treatment may have affected their outlook. As mentioned above many individual factors determine your treatment and prognosis.

Remember that survival statistics are for people who had treatment a number of years ago. Treatments improve over time, so people having treatment now may have a better outlook.


Clinical trials

Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve the outlook for people in the future. There is information about clinical trials in the trials and research section.

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Updated: 22 February 2014